Headline: Can someone end the Stranglehold of Vermont and Stony Brook?
Storyline: Over the last four seasons the only current member of the conference aside from Stony Brook and Vermont to play in the tournament final was last year’s champion Albany. Was last year just an aberration for the Seawolves and Catamounts?
Keep an eye on: The Hartford Hawks. Coach John Gallagher returns four starters from a squad that earned the school’s first post-season appearance, all of which are juniors. Leading scorer Mark Nwakamma (14.7) and Nick Sikma lead a versatile Hawks’ offense that could crash the 2-school party in America East.
Headline: The defending champs have plenty of competition in their new conference.
Storyline: The Cardinals may be raising a banner this November but it will be far from clear sailing for Rick Pitino and crew. Connecticut returns to the ranks of the post-season eligible and if they can figure out their front court issues they will become a familiar unwelcomed foe for Louisville. Memphis also arrives after years of dominating Conference USA and Cincinnati won 22 games and returns one of the best guards in the conference in Sean Kilpatrick hoping to make their mark on the new conference.
Keep an eye on: The SMU Mustangs who haven’t made an NCAA Tournament since 1993 return all five starters from a 15-win season and welcome the school’s first ever McDonald’s All-American in 6-5 guard Keith Frazier. So don’t do a double take if Larry Brown has this group of Mustangs charging towards the front of the AAC.
Headline: Teams come, teams go but the top remains the same.
Storyline: Butler, Temple and Xavier are gone and George Mason arrives but the top of the A-10 shouldn’t change much despite the comings and goings. VCU, last year’s tournament champ St. Louis and surprise Sweet 16 participant LaSalle should all contend for the league title again this season with the likes of UMass and St. Joseph’s nipping at their heels.
Keep an eye on: George Mason. The Patriots return all five starters from their 22-win team last season, but can they translate their success in the Colonial to the Atlantic 10?
Headline: Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame make the ACC the best conference in the country.
Storyline: Can Duke be derailed? An already loaded Blue Devils squad welcomes the highly touted recruit Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood to Durham in hopes of doing more than just erasing how 2013 ended. How quickly will Syracuse become a rival of Duke? Hall of Fame coaches, Quinn Cook vs. Tyler Ennis at point guard and Hood/Parker vs. CJ Fair and Jerami Grant, good match ups abound between these two teams who will get to know each other well pretty quick.
Keep an eye on: Notre Dame. Coach Mike Brey always seemed to get the Fighting Irish to exceed expectations no matter where they are picked. The Irish return a senior back court of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Can the Irish separate themselves from the North Carolinas, Virginias and Pittsburghs of the ACC?